In spite of what you may have heard this week, we have not started an ark-building ministry at Ball Camp Baptist Church, though there were times on Monday when I wondered if some sort of watercraft might be necessary to get around, considering how much water was falling from the sky. Who knew that so much rain could fall in such a short amount of time? Fortunately, our facility stayed dry on the inside. This is no small gift when we remember some of the problems we have dealt with in recent years.
Some of our neighbors were without electricity during Monday’s storm. I had one friend in Chattanooga who was without power for 19 hours. She was excited to have power again after going without it. “We don’t realize what we take for granted!” Electricity is one of the many aspects of 21st Century living that we have grown accustomed to experiencing without thinking about it. We take for granted conveniences that caused eyes to pop and minds to swirl when they where first introduced. Those conveniences have given us more control over lives, more time to do what we want to do, as well as what we need to, and in some cases to do those things better. When they are taken away from us we are limited and vulnerable, no longer able to do and control the aspects of our living that we could with them.
Those moments that startle us and reveal to us our vulnerabilities do not come to us only when the electricity is not working. We get reminders of the ways that life is beyond our control all the time. As our children cross developmental milestones, we learn new ways where we are not in control. When the company we work for closes its doors for the last time, we get reminded of our vulnerability. Unexpected news from the doctor does the same thing to us. We don’t like being vulnerable or out of control. We seem programmed to respond to such situations by trying to minimize the ways that we are vulnerable. We work to get some kind of control over whatever it is — our children, our career, or our health — that has disturbed our sense of being in charge of our lives. We do our best to quickly move on and move beyond the situation and the uncomfortable feelings that came with it.
If we pause in the midst of our crisis, or take some time after it passes to reflect upon it, we might be surprised at what we see mingled in the reflection of our own vulnerability and weakness. Is there anything more vulnerable than a newborn baby? Who needs more help than a little baby needing to be bathed, fed and loved? Yet, because of God’s great need to be in loving relationship with us, God became not just human, but the most vulnerable of humans needing to be fed, bathed and loved. Henri Nouwen describes God coming to us this way: “Who can be afraid of a little child that needs to be fed, to be cared for, to be taught, to be guided? We usually talk about God as the all-powerful, almighty God on whom we depend completely. But God wanted to become the all-powerless, all-vulnerable God who completely depends on us. How can we be afraid of a God who wants to be ‘God-with-us’ and needs us to become ‘Us-with-God’?”
The mystery and wonder of God is that God wants to be loved by us as much as God loves us. On the good days, we may take for granted the goodness of God’s provision in our lives. On the days when we feel like we are not in control of our lives, we can recall that God has taken away the distance that once separated us from God, not with God’s great strength, but with God’s willingness to become a child laying in a manger.